Adaptation + Mitigation = Innovation + Resilience
The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe is a federally recognized Tribal Government located in Humboldt County. The Tribe began developing its Adaptation + Mitigation policy and programs in 2008 to mitigate climate change and prepare for increased climate impacts. The policy is perpetual, and has been memorialized in several parallel initiatives, including a Rancheria-wide Climate Adaptation Plan, a Tribal Hazard Mitigation Plan, a Flood and Dam Break Preparedness Plan, a Tribal Climate Action Pledge, a Climate Action Champion Program (completed in 2016), an Integrated Resource Management Plan, and many others. These efforts contribute to the Tribe's goal of reaching energy self-sufficiency and reducing GHGs by 75% (from a 2002 baseline) by 2018, transitioning to 100% clean (zero-emission) energy by 2030. The Tribe also aims to strengthen its energy self-sufficiency and overall risk preparedness in the face of the climate conditions it is susceptible to, including high winds, heavy rains, flooding, landslides, wildfires, and drought.
Lead Agency and Partnerships
Lead: Jana Ganion, Sustainability Director, Blue Lake Rancheria - responsible for Adaptation + Mitigation strategy and initiatives, including management of low-carbon, clean energy implementation projects (e.g., community-scale microgrid, strategic adaptation, mitigation, and other plans).
Partners: City of Blue Lake partners: Environmental Programs, Department of Energy and Technologies, Regulatory Commission, Office of Emergency Services, Police Department, Wildland Fire Department, and the Department of Economic Enterprises.
Federal partners include: California Energy Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Other partners include: American Red Cross, CalEMA, FEMA, Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services, Humboldt State University, Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oakridge National Laboratory, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Schatz Energy Research Center, State of California, other Tribal Governments, and technology partners including Tesla and Siemens.
The Tribe's robust and ongoing Adaptation + Mitigation program is voluntary. As a federally recognized Tribal Government, the Tribe is generally subject to federal regulation except where it expressly agrees otherwise. There are currently no federal mandates that apply specifically to adaptation, although the Tribe supports the development of specific Adaptation + Mitigation mandates and incentives.
In Blue Lake Rancheria's geographically rural, isolated region allows for many climate impacts, including droughts, floods, storms, and degraded drinking water quality due to increased river temperatures. Seventy-five percent of the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal population is made up of elders and children, who are highly susceptible to these impacts. The Tribe has actively engaged its community, including elders and children, in all Mitigation + Adaptation strategies and plans. For example, the Climate Action Plan engaged all tribal members, tribal and non-tribal residents of Blue Lake Rancheria, and over 400 tribal employees in a series of meetings and surveys to craft and refine the plan and its activities.
Climate Impact Area
This project responds to all climate impacts, but primarily addresses impacts the Blue Lake area is highly susceptible to -- droughts, floods, storms, and wildfires.
The Tribe has comprehensive plans which identify processes, activities, and updates to institutionalize low- and zero-carbon solutions to build resilience against climate impacts. A few projects propelled by the Tribe's numerous initiatives include a 175kW biomass gasification/fuel cell system, onsite biodiesel production using waste cooking oil, a community microgrid with 0.5 MW solar PV and 800kWh battery storage, and ongoing energy efficiency upgrades. These projects strengthen the Tribe's resiliency by ensuring energy self-sufficiency in case of climate impacts. The Tribe's efforts also contribute to its goal of mitigating future climate impacts by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 75% (from a 2002 baseline), by 2018. With current projects, the Tribe will exceed this goal.
The Tribe's Adaptation + Mitigation strategy is funded by the Tribal Government and through grants and incentives as they become available. For example, the Climate Adaptation Plan was developed through funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Cooperative Landscape Conservation Program. The low-carbon, community-scale microgrid was funded by the Tribal Government, a grant from the California Energy Commission, and matching funds from our technology partners.
Research and Data
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory helped the Tribe design a site-specific GHG inventory calculator, which they used with several other tools to gauge progress, including but not limited to:
- Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) dashboards
- Community Resilience Index/Metrics, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
- EPA Climate Resilience and Awareness Tool (CREAT)
- National Climate Assessment, NCA4, risk-based framing tools
- National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) 2013, Department of Homeland Security
- National Wildlife Federation (NWF): 1) Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment , 2) Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice
- Northern Arizona University (NAU), Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP), Tribal Climate Change Adaptation Planning Toolkit
- U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- U.S. Global Change Research program (USGCRP), Global Change Information System, Indicators
- ICLEI, Preparing for Climate Change
- EPA, Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans
- Safeguarding California
The Blue Lake Rancheria is a small tribe, and as such, capacity is always an issue. The Tribe actively developed partnerships with academic, public, and private entities to mitigate that challenge. Uncertainty and prioritization of investment is also a challenge, but Blue Lake Rancheria has policies, programs, and critical infrastructure that it has categorized into lifeline sectors (energy, water, food, communication, and transportation) to help prioritize risk mitigation.
Benefits of Blue Lake Rancheria's Adaptation + Mitigation strategies include a dramatic reduction in energy use and costs, transitions to clean, cost-effective forms of energy and transportation, increased employment by 10%, and implementation of smarter more effective systems across the energy, water, food, communications, and transportation lifeline sectors which will ultimately increase the Tribe's climate resilience. The Tribe is now developing an onsite Resilience Training and Innovation Center (RTIC), a state-of-the-art training, retail, communications, and business incubation (for entrepreneurial startups) facility focusing on low-carbon, resilience, and emerging clean energy and smart technology fields. The Tribe is also implementing a "nano-grid" with solar PV, battery storage, building-efficiency systems for its fuel station and convenience store, and a "smart water grid" to deliver community and emergency drinking water. These projects will be complete by 2019. The Tribe's mitigation, adaptation, resilience, and innovation successes are a direct result of community vision and goal-setting, and the institutionalizing of vision and goals by the Tribal Council into plans, policies, regulations, investments, and projects.
Best practices guidance for adaptation planning recommends the development of vulnerability assessments and related risk management plans that are downscaled for specific sites, and these approaches have been standard operating procedures for Blue Lake Rancheria staff for the tribe's critical infrastructure (energy and water grids, communications, built environment, etc.). The climate change-related variables (e.g., more intense short-term disruptions, and long-term changes in temperature and precipitation) and associated vulnerabilities within the assessments and plans were downscaled and documented for specific sites.